New Paper Examines African Development Challenges for the 21st Century

Sep 22, 2005

The Africa Program is pleased to release the 4th installment of its Occasional Paper Series. This paper, entitled "Africa: The Development Challenges of the 21st Century," assesses past struggles and future prospects for economic, political and social development on the continent. In this paper, which is based upon a presentation to the Wilson Center's Congressional Staff Forum on Africa, Callisto Madavo, former Vice President for Africa at the World Bank reviews the scope and background of African poverty and identifies some broad imperatives to guide development policy through the 21st century.

Madavo situates his discussion of Africa's current development challenges within a historical context of the post-independence period. After an initial growth, Africa's aspirations to catch up economically were devastated by a series of external shocks to many commodity– dependent economies throughout the 1970s. Increased borrowing and the adoption of the statist economic development model promoted public spending and government- centered economic policies that marginalized the private sector and depressed market-driven economic activity. During the 1980s, in an attempt to improve monetary stability and to scale back the economic function of the state, many African countries underwent financial stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPs). Stabilization and SAPs failed to reverse the stagnation, contraction and decline that began on the continent in the 1970s, but inspired a new focus on human development indicators as central to measuring development.

The emergence of the new consensus on development policy, with human development at its center, promotes economic growth and poverty reduction at the same time. This development strategy is articulated through the globally- endorsed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which focus attention on indicators of well- being and encourage a more constructive global partnership on environmental, trade, debt and technology issues. Although it is unlikely that Africa will reach the MDGs, Madavo is not an Afro-pessimist—he believes that a number of African countries may meet some, if not all, of the goals. The success of the new paradigm depends on the commitment of African governments to promoting peace and stability, good governance, and private sector growth, to strengthening the provision of clean water, health care and education, and to investing in women and the youth. For its part, the international community must commit to more development aid, increased debt relief and improved trade access for African countries.


The production of this paper is made possible in part by grants from Foundation Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

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